Wednesday, October 24, 2007

aaaaaaand.... ACTION!

Sex. Violence. Car crashes. Explosions. Those of you who write that kind of contemplative, solipsistic fiction where nothing much ever happens *might* just want to stop right here!

This might get a little basic, but it's on my mind lately. After all, the action is the juicy meat of the story. And nothing knocks me out of a story like bad action. Or maybe I should say action, badly done.

I'm going to have to let go of my coveted triple-tap here, because the way I see it, there are four basic ways to show action:

1. Cut to the Fireplace: An oldie but a goodie, and still a favorite of mine. Back in the days of the Film Censorship Board, the couple would kiss, the violins would swell and the camera would move to the fireplace. Or the pounding surf. Or a train going through a tunnel. So that *we* knew they were, you know, doing it.

I like this technique because your readers fill in the blanks. And they have much, much nastier imaginations than you do. *Much*. :-) You just show the upraised axe and cut to the scream, and their fevered imaginations strike the blow for you.

She stood in the doorway. Her body was framed in shadow and her eyes stayed on his.

"You shouldn't be here," he said.

Her bare feet made a whisper of sound crossing the threshhold. She locked the door behind her.

Drawbacks: Two things you have to look out for with this technique.

The. PRIME. Consideration. is that you don't shortchange action that needs to be in the story. If how the love scene, fight, crash, etc. happens matters to the story, you'd damn well better put it in there. If not, by all means, fade to the fireplace...

Also, be sure that you're clear enough to your target audience about what happened. The Tiny Dynamo *loves* the Bridget Jones movies (yet she likes me anyway - go figure), but it wasn't until we watched the director's commentary that she found out Bridget had anal sex with Daniel Cleever. That particular item was handled too subtly for her innocent ears to pick up.

And I say target audience. Readers know the ins and outs of their genres, but what might seem cliched to a 'regular' might completely stump a 'newbie'. Some people may read Miss Marple and wonder how this little old lady's supposed to be solving crimes the police can't. And I still don't see why every romance has to have a Big Misunderstanding in Act I that isn't cleared up until Act III. Your 'fireplace' action needs to take reader's expectations into account. Of course, since you probably read the sort of stuff you write, it likely will anyway.

(All right, this is taking longer than I thought, and I've got some novel to write. I'll pick up Part 2 tomorrow...)

And without further ado, today's

Official Daily Wordcount-o-Meter: 8898 words

Don't know what that is since yesterday. Simple math is beyond me this morning....


liz fenwick said...

Well the Bridet Jones scene was way to subtle for me since i too missed it.......

Great post :-)

Charles Gramlich said...

For anal sex, wouldn't they cut away to the bathroom instead of the fireplace?

Sorry, it's not a long way from my sickened brain to my fingers on the keyboard.

Good point about not necessarily needing to show every detail of a scene when you can let the reader's imagination have the fun.

avery said...

"For anal sex, wouldn't they cut away to the bathroom instead of the fireplace?"

It'd be a nice place during syndication to fade to a Preparation-H commercial.

I agree about the 'fireplace' issue. Many times it seems the freaky sex scene is thrown in just for the hell of it and has no merits within the story whatsoever. Of course, Hollywood has perfected this approach.